So I went to Jeju Island two weeks ago, and since finals start this week I thought it would be a great time to procrastinate and tell you all about it.
As you may know I like to plan everything to the last detail far in advance. I regularly have three or more lists defining my schedule for the day, the week and the month at any given time–and even those spontaneously multiply into the dozens. So when a friend asked me if I was interested in going to Jeju on Sunday (at this point it was a Wednesday night) I jumped at the chance (because not doing so would be stupid, and I like to think of myself as an intelligent person) and then subsequently had a tiny mental breakdown.
What had I gotten myself into?
I was literally in charge of nothing–I just had to show up on time and hope everything was under control. To make matters worse, the friends in charge decided that we were going to 밤세 or stay up all night the night before our flight–as we would be taking the first flight to Jeju at 6:20 in the morning and we were just going to stay at a friends house that lived near the airport the night before. Did I mention that he has a two room (bedroom + kitchen) apartment? So after eating dinner (?) at about 11:00pm we awkwardly chatted for awhile before heading out to 노래방 (karaoke) at about 12:30am. Then sang random Korean songs until about 3:00, when we returned back to his house and “slept” (aka laid down with our eyes closed in the dark) for about an hour before getting up and slapping ourselves together in order to catch a bus to the airport.
I almost missed my flight because I’m a foreigner and inept at life, but I made it in the end. There were three of us going to Jeju and the other two were taking a flight at 6:30 on a different airline…and the Korean friend with us didn’t realize that my flight was 10 minutes earlier. So alone, I went to get checked in–and not knowing the airport I asked someone where gate three was…they led me to the wrong gate….so I literally budged in front of everyone once I got to the security area and ran (awkwardly) down the hall to my awaiting flight–a solid 6 minutes before the doors closed. As soon as we took off I passed out, not to wake up until we got to Jeju–though this isn’t a surprise because the flight is basically 45 minutes. Korea be small.
I arrived to the airport first and shoved a protein bar in my mouth (thank you Anela) so I wouldn’t be hangry at everyone, and then met up with Michael and Haeryun–my travel buddies–once their plane landed. I really didn’t know what the plan was for the day, but we walked outside just as our friend SeungJi was pulling up to get us, and he drove our car full of zombie selves to a restaurant that serves Jeju-style noodle soup. It was amazing (and I semi-regretted the protein bar).
Being from Jeju, SeungJi knew what he was doing and sort of had an idea of what we could do for the day–which ended up being a nature/food adventure (low key my favorite type of adventure ever) around about half of the island.
We started out driving along the ocean, and I freaked out because I never get to see the ocean and its super 신기해 to me–which my friends being from Korea and Melbourne, Australia thought was hilarious.
After a bit, feeling the need for caffeine, we went to hands down the most interesting coffee shop I have ever been to. Its called Anthracite and is sort of in the middle of nowhere in an old barn type building. Between the stone floor with random things growing out of it and the multitude of skylights the atmosphere is artistic and cheerful, and the coffee is as delicious as it is beautiful–definitely the best I’ve had so far in Korea (but also take that with a grain of salt because I was so sleep deprived I’m pretty sure I was slightly hysterical).
SeungJi drove us up a mountain so we could look at another mountain, but it was so steep and there were so many twists and turns that by the time we reached the top we were all even more zoned out than we had been prior to the coffee! God save me, I will never drive in Korea–not even in rural areas of Jeju. Korean drivers….are even more terrifying than the roads here. Just a hard pass all around.
After getting mostly down the mountain we stopped for lunch–which I was slightly terrified to eat because we went to a restaurant to get 해물찜–spicy seafood stir-fry–and as an inept Minnesotan I get wigged out by underwater creatures being on my plate. Especially ones that have turned bright red from the amount of chili pepper used.
Fortunately for my stomach and my sanity, the food was delicious and we ate absolutely everything we were given. While driving we definitely pulled over to the side of the road where there were a particularly large number of orange trees…..and…..sort of swiped some….they were delicious 😉
I think I mentally blocked how much I like being in a car. I love the convenience and efficiency of public transportation in Seoul, but man sitting in a car all day was amazing!
After driving some more we stopped at yet another rest stop/cafe by the ocean to fill up on more caffeine before having 회식–semi-formal-under-the-guise-of-super-casual business-related dinner thing–with SeungJi and his boss.
Though I have neglected mentioning this up until now, we actually were going to Jeju to be international models (I know, me a model, hilarious) for a chair our friend designed. Before going to our dinner meeting we drove around (in a terrifying and fascinating car ride experience) to visit a few of the filming locations for the next day. Yeah, surprise, I found out at that moment that it wouldn’t be pictures but a commercial film we were shooting. My Australian friend and I were in the car with our friends boss person, and we had terrifyingly deep conversations in the car about everything ranging from why were in Korea to gun control in the United States. Yikes.
We survived and went out to eat black pork, a Jeju special, at a barbecue restaurant. It was delicious but we (especially me and Michael) were basically in a food-coma/sleep-depravation state at this point and were excited to pack up and drive over to the pension we were staying at for the night. I love slumber parties and I am typically a night person, but it took everything I had in me to stay awake for an appropriate amount of time before completely crashing.
The next morning we all woke up, got ready, and piled into SeungJi’s car–though with an equally vague idea about what would be happening during the day. At this point, I was embracing not being in control and tried my best to just go with the flow–all I really needed to do was to make sure I would be on my flight home that night (though I almost missed that flight too, but you will have to wait a bit for that story).
Our modeling/filming day started out in an office, where Michael, Haeryun and I pretended to be working while sitting in regular chairs and then sitting in the Pivott chair my friend designed. At first it was super awkward because in addition to us and people related to the chair itself there was a three person camera crew of middle aged Korean men who (probably needlessly) freaked me out a little bit, since I was too terrified to actually try to communicate with them directly.
As the day went on we filmed in more and more locations–a library, a model home, a hospital and a film studio. Though I mainly just stood around or sat on a chair most of the day, by the evening we were all completely exhausted–seriously I felt like I had jet lag (#regret for the 밤세 the night before we arrived lol). But that seemed to be the speed Koreans (dedicated to their work Koreans) run on–120% with very little sleep. I honestly don’t know how they do it.
After everything finished for the night, we went out for dinner with SeungJi’s boss person and three other people related to the chair in some way (which for the life of me I can’t remember anything more specific, mostly because it involved a lot of fast Korean and me nodding my head as if I understood when introductions were being made). Being in Jeju we were having a feast of raw fish, cooked fish and other random seafoods. Being super Minnesotan and about to get on an airplane, this freaked me out, but most of the things were delicious and not as scary or awkward tasting as I thought they would be. *Watch this video of my friend Joel attempting to eat seafood in Korea and then you will understand my apprehension when I saw what was on the table in front of me*
Who knew that middle aged Koreans take longer to say goodbye than your average Minnesotan? We tried to run away (at my prompting because I was paranoid about not being in charge and of missing my flight) and said goodbye at the dinner table, in the main area of the restaurant, in front of the restaurant and at the car before zooming off to the airport to catch the last flights back to Seoul.
SeungJi and I literally ran to the desk of my airline because of how late we were–and of course my flight was 15 minutes earlier than Michael and Haeryun’s flight, because my middle name has an apostrophe and KoreanAir doesn’t process that?! Anyway, I ran through security….and my flight ended up being delayed like 20 minutes T_T So I stood in line sweating and feeling like barfing all the raw fish in my stomach from all the running. Ew.
So I got on the plane and watched Mr. Bean’s Holiday on the way home to Seoul to chill and attempt not to sleep until I reached the dorm. We arrived in one piece and then took a train back to Shinchon and walked back to the dorm, where we arrived just shy of 1am. I missed driving in a car already >_<
We were literally in Jeju for less than 48 hours, but it was probably one of the highlights of my time here in Korea. I am so grateful for having had the opportunity and I can’t wait until I can go back to the island in the future.
Thank you for reading about my adventures! Come back for more adventures soon~~ I’ll leave you with some of our crazy pictures, but if you want to see all the pictures I took head over to my Flickr page here.